Georgia will face Arizona State in the Desert in an attempt to gain a critical non-conference victory.
Georgia is in must-win mode through the month of December and this is the biggest challenge of them all, a showdown at Arizona State. Georgia is looking to avenge a loss to Arizona State last season, a game where Tom Crean’s Dawgs had the lead for most of the game and blew a 16 point lead to eventually lose at Stegeman Coliseum. It was a disheartening loss that showed that the team had clear defensive flaws that could be easily exploited, notably the inability to defend the dribble-drive. However, this is a totally different Georgia team facing an Arizona State team with many of the same players back in Maroon and Gold.
Let’s Meet the Arizona State Sun Devils
Arizona State Head Coach Bobby Hurley emphasizes scoring at the rim. While his team attacks the basket off the dribble frequently through Remy Martin’s efforts, this a team that scores at the rim off cuts and entries. It is a fast-paced motion offense that has been efficient in the past, but not as efficient this season.
One of the major challenges that Arizona State has faced under Bobby Hurley is that the team has not been able to be in the top 10-15% of College Basketball on offense and defense. In 2017, Arizona State had great offense and terrible defense. In 2018, the defense improved while the offense was among the best. In 2019, the defense was just outside of the Top 20% just like the offense. This season, Arizona State struggles on offense and has been a strong defensive team.
Defensively, Hurley’s teams usually play man-to-man defense and put pressure in the backcourt at times. Arizona State is not a pressing team, but they are not afraid to use a form of a full court pressure defense.
Arizona State Team Strengths:
- Three point shooting defense. Holding opponents to 28.9% from three point range.
- Stifling their opponent’s ball movement. 24% forced turnover rate and 41.4% opponent assist rate.
- Not turning the ball over. Arizona State in 2016-17 and 2017-18 was in the Top 10 in Turnover Rate and this season has a 15.9% turnover rate, 20th in the country.
- Transition shot selection. Arizona State gets to the rim and three point line more frequently in transition. They also shoot three point shots best in secondary break off an opponent’s missed shot with a 37.8% three point Field Goal percentage.
- Challenging opponent putbacks. Arizona State keeps opponents from scoring on second chance opportunities.
- Getting to the Free Throw Line. Arizona State was one of the best in FTA/FGA last season and this season have fallen back a bit, but they are still very good at getting to the Free Throw Line.
- Depth. Arizona State plays 10 deep and will not wear down like more conventional teams.
Arizona State Team Weaknesses:
- Offensive Rebounding. Arizona State has a 24.6% offensive rebounding rate, which is 267th best in the country.
- Defensive Rebounding. Arizona State has a 73% defensive rebounding rate, which is 170th in the country. They struggled with denying second chance opportunities against St. John’s and Prairie View A&M.
- Three Point Shooting. Arizona State is a 31.4% three point shooting team. This is poor. Deny them secondary break off rebounds and they are much weaker team from the perimeter.
- Half Court Offense. In a non-transition possession, Arizona State has a 45.5% effective Field Goal rate this is 64th worst in the country.
- Poor Ball Movement. With a 43.8% Assist Rate, the Sun Devils are 302nd in the country and are not scoring off good passing.
Who to Watch for the Arizona State Sun Devils
Remy Martin – 6’0″ Point Guard
Put down the Remy Martin VSOP or XO. Trade it in for Hennessy VSOP.
Remy Martin has taken his game to a higher level on defense. Offensively, he is as efficient as last season.
Martin is a much more disruptive defender this season and he is more aggressive in his pursuit to the Free Throw Line. He gets most of his work done off the dribble, he is not going to be making a play as an off-guard in this Arizona State offense. He creates almost all of his own shots, which means he is hardly a threat without the ball. He is either setting up a teammate from a dribble drive or creating his own shot off his own dribble. If he does not have his hands on the ball, he is no threat to make something happen as a cutter or in the catch-and-shoot.
The objective to defending Martin is to deny him the ability to drive and force the ball out of his hands. Make Martin a spectator.
The alternative approach is to turn Martin into a ballhog. Force Martin to take a lot of shots by denying his teammates. Arizona State is a poor offensive rebounding team and his missed shots could result in secondary break offense.
Martin is very dangerous on the floor, but it is not necessarily a bad sign if he is taking a lot of shots or even scoring, if his teammates are not involved. Keep him off the Free Throw Line and the likelihood of beating Arizona State rises significantly.
Romello White – 6’8″ Power Forward
Romello White offensively gets his work done in the restricted arc and at the Free Throw Line. He is only a 66.7% Free Throw shooter, but putting him at the line too often means that his better shooting teammates will get opportunities for defensive mistakes.
White’s back-to-the-basket and High Post driving game are strong. If he is outside of his scoring area, he is not a threat to score from the perimeter. The offense is just setting him up for a ball screen with Remy Martin. Help defense on the ball screen is a must as White will slip and roll to the basket. He is not going to fade. Going under the ball screen will result in a three point shot attempt by Remy Martin. Going above will result in a dribble drive. A switch gives Remy Martin a dribble drive with an option to pass to Romello White on the roll.
The ball screen action with Martin and White is where the challenge lies.
During the past two seasons, White has been very foul prone, but this season he has managed to keep himself from committing as many fouls. White is too important to keep off the floor for the Sun Devils.
He’s a strong defensive rebounder and good shot blocker. He is not effective enough defensively to be used like James Banks of Georgia Tech.
Rob Edwards – 6’4″ Shooting Guard
Edwards is the best three point shooter on this team. He is shooting 39.6% from long range this season and he takes approximately half of his shots from three point range. Unlike Remy Martin, Edwards is more of a catch-and-shoot three point shooter, but he does create his own three point shots. Edwards gets most of his offensive work done off cuts, kick-outs, and ball rotation along the perimeter.
When Remy Martin tries to be the hero, Rob Edwards suddenly disappears offensively and falls out of the flow. Edwards needs to be involved in the offense to make a strong impact offensively.
Biggest concerns for Georgia against Arizona State
Ball Screen Defense
Georgia’s Ball Screen Defense is an absolute mess and given how Arizona State only has one really strong shooter, this could be addressed by playing more Zone Defense. Zone Defense along with the pressure will not allow Remy Martin to dictate the offense on his terms to set up Rob Edwards, Romello White or frequently himself.
Everyone has to be on the same page as to whether the team is switching, not switching or in zone defense. There has to be a discipline there, especially against a trio like Martin, Edwards, and White.
Pac-12 Officiating and Offensive Foul Contact
This is a Georgia team that commits a lot of offensive fouls on push-offs, moving screens, hooks, chicken wings, and charges on driving movement that are not actually making movement toward the rim. Avoiding these fouls is crucial as this is a Pac-12 game and the officials are going to make calls that one would never see outside of a Pac-12 venue. Defensive contact has to be at a minimum to prevent the Free Throw Parade.
This is not a game where Anthony Edwards and Tyree Crump can start firing off threes at will. Better shot selection with clearly practiced catch-and-shoot attempts are necessary. Arizona State is going to try to drive the foul count up and this means that a bad three point shot can result in a transition possession that may mean 2-4 points for the Sun Devils. A bad shot is akin to a turnover against Arizona State. It is not a youth issue, it is a pride issue. Using better ball movement and the dribble drive to get better shots is the objective.
Play Like Nobody is Watching
This is Georgia’s first true road game of the season against a Division I opponent. The last time the Dawgs ventured out of Athens, the Maui Invitational brought temptations to play a certain way that would doom this team to a losing record.
The good news is that the game is televised on Pac-12 Network, which means that there is a carriage of 18 million of this game. More people will have likely watched the game against Georgia Tech than this game.
What to Expect
It will be an immature performance on the road for this Georgia team. The SEC as a whole has struggled this season and this may be a 3-4 bid conference by March. Georgia has to do a lot to impress the NCAA Tournament Committee and a win like this certainly would help, but this is not a team that has the necessary amount of maturity to handle a long trip to Desert Financial Arena in Tempe, Arizona. A lack of maturity does not mean youth, this is a team that does not have the composure and understanding of what it takes to win a game like this. The way the team played in Maui is indicative of where this team’s mindset is right now when they are away from home or play in a larger venue.
The defensive adjustments will not be there yet even with the 10 days off. Coaches tighten up against tougher competition and Tom Crean does not have as much confidence in this team yet to feel like he can do what he did against North Carolina Central. The team is still a work in progress, but this will not be an embarrassing loss. However, the team needs to sweep December and while it is something that is possible, it is too unlikely even with a less potent offensive opponent in Arizona State.
Georgia’s defensive identity and discipline are not good enough to beat Arizona State on the road. Maybe in a month or two, one can make the case that Georgia can do it, but right now the answer is ‘no’.
Prediction: Arizona State 80 Georgia 72